On the Water's Edge
Contemporary French at L'Arome By The Sea in Phuket
Floating above the shimmering tides of the Andaman Sea on Kalim Bay in Phuket, L'Arome By The Sea may not look like much from its exteriors. But this is 2022, and it's all about inner beauty. From the moment you enter the fine dining restaurant with its soothing blue hues and French windows offering blue-on-blue as far as the eye can see, a sea of calm washes over you. These are seafront seats to contemporary French cuisine, with touches of Swiss, by chef Yannick Hollenstein.
Having grown up in the Swiss Alps, Hollenstein inserts his "DNA" into the food. "French food is always a bit too predictable and a bit boring. At L'Arome we try to use French techniques with ingredients that are the best we can find. I won't call it fusion, we just use the best to add flavour. I always like to work with colour and my goal is to work only in monochrome because the same colour profile matches the flavour. Our philosophy is to create something that's really interesting, with variety and surprising elements," says the chef.
The best time to arrive at L'Arome is right before sunset, so you can take it all in as you begin the meal. (Insider's tip: look outward through the glass windows towards the side of the restaurant and you'll see the chef's boat, which he uses to fish). A big part of the menu is seafood and the chef, weather permitting, does catch fish for one of the courses, aptly named "Chef's catch". Though the courses on the menu may go through changes every now and then, depending on what's available seasonally, the entire tasting menu changes every two to three months. (L'Arome also offers an a la carte.)
Service is at forefront of this restaurant, so whether you order the tasting menu or the a la carte, you still get snacks and the amuse-bouche. Begin with the "Phuket fishbowl" snacks; one made with three types of seaweed and the other with potato. Move onto the four amuse-bouche to get your palate ready for what's to come. Every course of this five-course or seven-course menu comes in choices. So you are spoilt for choice here! The first course is either an Andaman yellowtail hamachi with Chiang Mai tomato, tamarillo and one of my favourite ingredients -- finger lime, or French foie gras with rhubarb, Thai macadamia and elderflower, or Hokkaido scallop, with petits pois, Serrano reserva and citrus. I should add that the plating and ceramics chosen for each dish are so exquisite that it makes it difficult to not let the food go cold, while you stare at the dish.
L'Arôme By The Sea.
The next course is a choice of two. Though you may be tempted to go with L'Arome's signature: Phuket lobster with butternut squash, bisque and passion fruit, which has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in 2020, I strongly suggest choosing the aged red mullet with ratatouille, red pepper and basil. As soon as the dish is put in front of you, the sheer aroma gets you salivating and I couldn't wait to tuck in. Disclaimer: I don't even like fish! The Krabi mullet is deboned and a mix of lobster, collar meat, black olives and tomatoes, for a touch of the Mediterranean, is stuffed into the fish. It is then grilled over a binchotan. A divine dish!
Brittany cod comes with blood orange, saffron and should you wish, Oscietra caviar, or my choice of smoked cheese fondue served with cheese tortellini, an onset egg and truffle foam. The smoked cheese idea comes from Hollenstein's desire to create a lighter version of a Swiss fondue. Once the shell is cracked, beechwood smoke is released and what is revealed (apart from the smoky fragrance) is an onsen egg, potato foam and a tortellini made with five different cheeses. Crispy potato, champignon mushrooms and shavings of a special cheese from Berne, Switzerland complete the dish. Belper Knolle is small-batched, hard cow's cheese, infused with garlic and rolled in black pepper.
Mains are a choice of French quail ballotine with rotkraut, red radicchio and blackberry or Australian Wagyu striploin MB6+, or Busyu Japanese Wagyu striploin A5 with white asparagus, morels and a Bordelaise sauce. Should you choose the quail, you must know that the rotkraut or the red cabbage is a recipe from the chef's grandmother and is very Swiss. It did remind me of Christmas with all the spices infused in it. The cheese trolley isn't a choice in my book, it's a must! Especially with artisanal Swiss, French and Thai cheeses on offer. To refresh the palate before dessert, the Northern cherry plum and Thai basil with Greek yoghurt, Campari and spearmint does the job.
Desserts are a delight to look at and I did hear a few "oohs" and "aahs" from the table beside me. The Thai mango and yellow peach dessert uses nam dok mai for its sweet and sour tasting notes. It is served in four ways: sorbet, mousse, dried and a sphere. The other choice is Phuket sea urchin from when chef Hollenstein was fishing and noticed them. The locals use them in soups. This dessert of mango, passion fruit and charcoal is a far cry from the taste of Thai sea urchins, though. What makes the dessert mimic a sea urchin are the numerous sugared crispy spaghetti.
In most cases, one saves room for dessert, but at L'Arome By The Sea one should save space for the mignardises. The best thing is if you don't have space, you're given a doggie bag and a souvenir!
There is something to be said about dining along the sea, though L'Arome By The Sea promises more than just a spectacular view from the water's edge. The restaurant serves a la carte, a five-course tasting menu for 3,100++ baht, with a wine pairing of four glasses for 2,100++ baht, and a seven-course menu for 3,800++ baht, with a wine pairing of six glasses for 2,900++ baht. A Prestige wine pairing is also on offer, as is a vegetarian menu. The restaurant has a rooftop bar and a private room. Reservations are highly recommended.
Japanese Busyu Wagyu A5.
Beef tartare 'Cafe De Paris'.
Left Phuket sea urchin.
Foie gras au torchon.
L'Arôme By The Sea.
Andaman yellowtail hamachi.
- L’Arome By The Sea
- Kalim Bay, Kathu district, Phuket
- Call 076-346-271
- Visit en.laromegroup.com/laromebythesea
- Opens for dinner Tuesday to Sunday 4-11pm
- Most credit cards excepted